Women greatly under-represented in top-level business positions
A Chamber of Labour study, conducted in September 2005, finds that women holding top-level positions are rare in Austrian companies listed on the Vienna stock exchange. Organised labour is thus demanding an amendment to the Corporate Governance Code as well as appropriate legal initiatives in order to increase substantially the proportion of women on companies’ management and supervisory boards.
A study carried out by the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK) in September 2005 underlines the continuing predominance of men within the governing bodies of Austria’s enterprises. Accordingly, 45 out of 79 companies listed on the Viennese stock exchange have management and supervisory boards composed exclusively of men. Only 25 out of 540 mandates for the supervisory boards are held by women (ie 4.6%), and only 7 out of 230 management board members are females (ie 3%). Women’s top-level representation in Austria’s businesses thus records an even worse situation compared with the anyhow extremely low numbers at European Union (EU) level (recording a women’s share of 7.3% in supervisory boards).
This 'effective exclusion' of women from the governing bodies of the country’s (listed) establishments has been criticised by both the AK and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB). The argument is that with the dramatic under-representation of women within the companies’ executive and supervisory boards the interests of all women involved (ie share-holders, consumers, employees, etc) remain systematically disregarded. The clear prevalence of male supervisory board members translates directly into a systematic neglect of women’s interests, when it comes to strategic business-related decisions, Renate Csörgits, the head of the women’s organisation of ÖGB, emphasised. Moreover, supervisory boards dominated by men apparently tend to favour men before women when it comes to appointments to management boards. This might explain the fact that the women’s representation within executive bodies is - on average - even lower than within supervisory boards.
In the face of such factual discrimination against women, both AK and ÖGB are demanding an amendment to the Austrian 'Corporate Governance Code' (AT0502204F) in order to include regulations concerning positive action with regard to women. Furthermore, according to organised labour, legal provisions are required aimed at obliging companies to grant a minimum share of supervisory board mandates reserved for women, in a way analogous to a new (2005) Norwegian legislation committing companies listed on the Norwegian stock exchange to reserve at least 40% of supervisory board mandates for women (ÖGB-Nachrichtendienst Nr.3263, September 2005). By way of such means, employee representatives argue, a women’s share of in between 30 and 50% for supervisory boards of Austrian companies (listed on the national stock exchange) could be reached in a medium-term prospect.
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